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Tips on how to Improve Indoor Air Quality

When you figure in sleep, we spend more time breathing the air in our homes than anywhere else. Unfortunately that air is some of the most stagnant air we encounter. Today we’ll take a look how to improve indoor air quality. To set the table: one thing we won’t be talking about in this post are air purification systems. The ones that work are big, expensive, and typically needed by people with serious breathing issues who should consult a doctor. The readily available residential air purifiers at places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond either aren’t particularly effective or have harmful side effects like the production of ozone.

What are some simple things can we do to improve indoor air quality? What works? What is reasonably affordable? Where should we start?

HVAC Solutions:
First if you have forced air change those filters. This will has the added benefit of saving you money through more efficient operation, but mostly it will remove all that dust they have trapped previously. You should change these at least every 4 months, but more often in heavy use seasons.

Cleaning & Tools:
Clean or replace your vacuum. Many of us have old vacuums with dirty filters and brushes caked with hair/dirt, using them moves around the dirt rather than removes it. Stirring up dust and dirt creates more indoor air pollution more than it traps. Once every few months take time to clean brushes, filters, replace bags etc. You’ll be rewarded with a vacuum that works more effectively and with better indoor air quality. If your vacuum is beyond hope look at one of the new HEPA filter enhanced ones sold through major retailers like Target. One other trick is to run your recirculation fan on the HVAC system while cleaning. This will help the filters you previous changed trap the dust stirred up by cleaning.

Rather than sweep and push the dust around, switch to electrostatic dusters like “Swiffer” which do a much better job of trapping dust and dirt. Make a habit of dusting counters and shelves as well as moping at least somewhat consistently – this regiment is far more effective that just sweeping. Again on the days you cleaning run the fan on your furnace to pull any dust in the air through the filters to be trapped.

A Little Green:
So far we have mostly talked about how to clean and eliminate dust and dirt in your house. There is another simple, natural, and effective way to improve air quality, bring some greenery indoors. Plants help to clean the air by removing toxins and naturally help to humidify the air improving its overall quality. Plants are especially effective at removing VOC’s including: formaldehyde, xylene, ammonia, benzene, toluene, and trichloroethylene. Here are some of the most effective plants for cleansing indoor air, there are many more listed in this Wikipedia article.

– Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) no non-toxic.
– Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) non-toxic.
– Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’) no non-toxic.
– Kimberly queen fern (Nephrolepis obliterata) non-toxic.
– Lilyturf (Liriope spicata) non-toxic.
– Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) non-toxic.

Thanks for the time today, what are some things you have done to improve indoor air quality in your house?

Our Top 6 Winter Driving Tips

Every year that first winter storm hits and takes half the country by surprise – this year get ready ahead of time with LifeHomeLiving’s winter driving tips & prep. The biggest things when it comes to winter driving are preparation, practice and skill. Unfortunately only one of those can be solved with prior planning, so we’ll tackle that today. Much of this is common sense and comes down to not being “that guy” with bald tires or paying $10 for windshield washer fluid while you wait for yours to thaw.

1.) Tires, tires, tires. This is literally where the rubber meets the road and they are the most important part of successful winter driving. No amount of all-wheel-drive or electronic trickery will solve for bad/bald/incorrect tires. A Mustang with good snow tires will outperform the beastliest of 4WD SUVs with bald or summer tires on it.

2.) Wipers and Fluid – Melting snow kicks up an insane amount of mud, not being able to clear that effectively from your windscreen means you can’t see. No fluid (or frozen fluid because its full of water) will make it impossible to clean build up off you windscreen. Bad wipers hamper that, impede your ability to remove rain or snow as well – meaning you can’t see.

3.) Accessories – Not the power or jewelry kinds but things (aka gear) you need. Keep: gloves, a long ice scraper, sunglasses, and a cheap wool hat in your car. These things will make removing snow from your car, driving before the heater is warmed up, or dealing with winter glare much easier.

4.) Car Battery – make sure yours is in good shape. “Let’s see if we can make it through the winter driving season” is a recipe for it dying at the exact wrong time. Cold is the enemy of strong starting.

5.) Cooling system – Huh? Most cooling systems fail during the summer causing cars to overheat, but it is called anti-freeze for a reason. Make sure your cooling system is in good working order, filled up and has the proper ration of coolant in it to avoid a catastrophic freeze.

6.) Improve your skills – Go to a winter driving class, or at least when the weather is bad practice sliding and stopping your car in a safe place like a wide open parking lot. Practice makes perfect and having an idea of what your car might do is a low traction situation will help you immensely.

That sums up most of the easy stuff when it comes to winter driving tips – but if you have any tips or tracks that we omitted fell free to send them to us or leave them in the comments.

Our Eggnog Recipe – a delicious holiday treat.

As the holidays roll around a little eggnog is always a crowd pleaser, well at least for part of the crowd. So for those folks and for myself I have been trying out different eggnog recipes for years trying to settle on that perfect version. After all of my trial and error here is the Life Home Living Holiday recommended eggnog recipe for the holidays:

What You’ll Need:
– 12 Egg Yolks (splurge for good cage free eggs it makes a noticeable difference).
– 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon.
– 5 whole cloves.
– 4 cups of 2% milk (ultra pasteurized is harder to curdle so it is a safe way to go).
– 1.25 Cups of granulated white sugar.
– 3/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg.
– 2.75 cups of good Spiced Rum (Mt. Gay is my personal favorite)
– 3.75 cups of light cream.
– 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

What You’ll Do:
1.) In a large sauce pan that is not yet on the stove, add:
– – 4 cups of Milk
– – 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
– – 5 Whole Cloves
– – All the Cinnamon
Place over heat and bring this mixture very slowly to a boil.

2.) Separately in a large bowl combine the following ingredients:
– – The Egg Yolks.
– – The Sugar.
Whisk these together until they are fluffy.

3.) Then whisk the hot milk mixture into the large bowl, pouring it back into the saucepan when you are done.

4.) Place this back on the over and cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes making sure not to let the mixture boil (or it may curdle), stir constantly while doing this. Then turn off the heat and let it cool for a few hours.

5.) Then Stir in rum, cream, 2 teaspoon vanilla, and nutmeg.

6.) Refrigerate all of this overnight before serving.

There you have it a killer holiday eggnog recipe for those fans out there.

Happy Holidays!

The Jetsons’ Futuristic Home Is Possible With Vivint Home Automation

Ever since we saw the popular 1960’s cartoon, The Jetsons, we’ve been dreaming about having a high tech automated home that would make our lives easier. Now in 2016 home automation is a growing trend thanks to advancements in technology that have made it attainable and affordable for many consumers. Earlier this year we did a review on the Ring Video Doorbell which allows homeowners to see and talk to people that approach their front door. In this review we will be discussing Vivint, another popular home automation service provider. Vivint offers several packages allowing customers to control several aspects of their home even when they are away. You can control all your home automation settings via the Vivint mobile app, available for both iOS and Android.

What is Home Automation Anyway?

Home automation is a catch all term for technology that allows us to adjust basic settings in our home via a computer or mobile device, sometimes even remotely when we aren’t at home. For example, one of the biggest trends is smart thermostats. These allow you to change the temperature of your home using an app on your phone. There are other energy saving automations available now too such adjusting lights or controlling your small appliances. Leave home on a trip and forget to lock your door or turn something off? No problem, use your app to do those things while on the go. Approaching home after the grocery store with lots to bring inside? No problem. You can program your automations to unlock your doors as your approach and turn on your lights. Another popular trend in automation is video doorbells that allow you to see who is at your door before you answer it. With these doorbells you can even talk to the person at your door or capture footage of them that is saved to a cloud. As you can see, there are many places where home automation can provide you with extra peace of mind, convenience, and help you save money on energy costs.

Vivint’s Security and Home Automation Packages

There are 3 packages to choose from to get you started with Vivint. Here is what they offer:

Smart Protect
This is the entry level package and focuses exclusively on Vivint’s home security features without the automation features. It includes 24/7 monitoring of your home and notifications when events occur at your home. You’ll also receive the standard security equipment including a control panel for inside your home to control all your Vivint services, a smoke detector, sensors for your doors and windows, a motion detector, a key fob, and a yard sign. This package does not include their smart home services such as smart thermostats, smart locks, or smart doorbells.

Smart Protect and Control
This package includes the same items that the Smart Protect package contains but it allows you to choose two of their home automation features. Some of their smart technologies to choose from include but are not limited to video doorbells, locks, thermostats, cameras, garage door control, and voice automation with Amazon Echo.

Smart Complete
With this package you get the products in the Protect package plus three home automation features. In addition you get a subscription to their cloud storage system called Space Monkey.

Our Thoughts on Vivint

Vivint focuses on differentiating themselves as the leader in technology and having the most up to date, cutting edge features. They started as a home security company but have since expanded their services to largely focus on the home automation side of the business. As such, they are more expensive than the competition. However, the trade off is more cool features to explore. In addition, if you already use products such as Nest or Amazon Echo, Vivint can seamlessly integrate with these technologies. If you are only wanting a basic home security package, you may find that based on price they are not the best fit for you. However, if you love technology and want the latest and greatest Vivint is a great option. Another perk of Vivint is that the installations are completed by their team of professionals who will teach you everything you need to know about how to use the system. Plus Vivint offers a variety of methods to provide customer support after your products are installed.

The most common criticism about Vivint has been their door to door sales team. This is one area to be mindful of, as some of the salesmen can be aggressive in their approach or make claims that may be less than true about their products or services. To avoid this you may want to call Vivint directly or consult their website for more solid information on what is and is not provided with your service. Vivint does require a contractual commitment to sign up, so you want to be sure you are aware of what you are getting before signing on the dotted line.

Conclusion

Vivint is offering exciting new technology and services to fully automate your home. Vivint’s services also come with the added benefits of having a full scale home security package. If you are looking for just traditional home security services without the automations that is available as well through Vivint. As such, we find their offerings to be very robust. Their pricing is higher than the competition, but if you are wanting all the latest features and the most up to date equipment Vivint will likely be your provider of choice. It’s ability to make your home more convenient and efficient than ever is the greatest benefit of their service. The cons include the cost and perhaps the door to door sales team depending on your unique experience with them. All in all we recommend Vivint and feel it is perfect for the technology loving household.

If you are interested in learning more about Vivint’s services, feel free to click here to be taken to their website, or you can also call Vivint directly at 1-866-491-8244.

6 Easy Green Home Tips

Many of the guides I have seen out there for greening your home contain far too many tips that are: expensive, difficult to implement, require construction, or are just plain impractical. At LifeHomeLiving we believe getting 90% of the way there with 10% of the effort is much more realistic approach to achieving a green home for many hard working families. To that end here are our favorite easy green home tips:

1.) Greener Cleaners – Today there a number of green cleaning products on the market and they can be found at any store from Target, to Walmart to Whole Foods. Something as simple as switching to a set of green cleaning products will reduce toxins in your house and improve indoor air quality. One of my personal favorite lines is Boulder Pure (as they are local) but other well known options are: Planet, Seventh Generation, and Method.

2.) Conserve Water – This is one where a lot of guides go over the top with advice like ripping out lawns or installing grey-water recovery systems. For us its a lot simpler : Low flow shower heads, low flow toilets (as cheap as $30 at home depot), waiting for a full load to do dishes or laundry, and if you are feeling ambitious a rain barrel to save water from storms to water your plants with. Simple steps like this can cut your water usage 10-25% without significant construction.

3.) Conserve energy (and save money) – Again keeping it simple here rather than going over the top: LED light bulbs, turn the thermostat down a couple degrees, and fixing drafts in the house are things that can significantly reduce energy usage and save you money.

4.) They yard – switch to organic fertilizers on the most part these are as effective as chemical fertilizers just slightly more expensive. The good news is at the scale most suburban homes need fertilizers the difference to your pocket is tiny. If you own a 20,000 acre farm it is a different story.

5.) Food – Many people will tell you that you need to go 100% organic and will of course that is the best option it isn’t realistic for most of us, but if you can buy organic for the worst of the worst when it comes to fruits and veg you’ll reduce 90% of pesticides you consume, they are: Apple, celery, cherry, grapes, lettuce, nectarine, peaches, pears, potatoes, spinach strawberry sweet bell pepper.

6.) Improve your indoor air – That links to our full article on it but in general: Grow plants inside, replace furnace filters, get a HEPA vacuum, and use dust trapping cloths.

There you have it our simplified green home tips – as always if we missed any simple tips you love please reach out to us here on social media.

Fall Yard Prep – Getting Ready For Next Year

Fall Yard prep? Really? Yes, really.

As the growing season comes to a close across much of the US and fall sets in fully – it is time to think about next year and some steps to take now to ensure a successful growing season next year. A key date you’ll be working backwards from for fall yard prep is date of first frost, if you don’t know when that is you can look it up here . Start with a good general clean up a good lawn raking to remove debris and any built up thatch will let fall moisture and air get to the roots. I would do this about 8 weeks before the first frost. Once cleaned up and de-thatched you’ll want to give the lawn a good week of watering, then aerate and fertilize making sure to get this done at least 4 weeks before first frost. Once this is done water and normal for the remainder of the season.

As the leaves continue to fall keep them picked up and debris in the yard to a minimum so that sun light can get through to your plants and let them naturally harden off and go dormant for the year. Leaving significant amounts of leaves on the ground is a big no-no in fall yard prep because it causes anything under they blanket to die off.

For winter pruning give dormant plants at least 6 weeks before any pruning to properly harden off or if possible wait until very early spring and prune before bud break.

If you live in an area where the ground can freeze or you risk a pipe bursting due to freezing temperatures have your sprinklers blown out within a couple weeks of first frost at the latest, ideally sooner.

That is about it for the fall, keep debris under control, aerate, prune and close up the sprinklers. This type of fall yard prep will foster a good environment for over wintering and help spring growth get off to the right start.

Becoming a Better Cook – The Knives You Need

Good sharp knives are the at foundation of good cooking and equipping your kitchen with them will help you become a better cook. Sharp consistent knives promote better knife skills, promote more even chopping and cutting meaning fewer small burned pieces or larger undercooked checks of ingredients. Now doubt all of us recall Cutco knives from high school or the late night stuff of infomercials pushed by the likes of Billy Mays – we are not here to talk about those types of knives. Real chefs knives are rarely sold by late night pitchmen or door-to-door salesmen.

About Knives:

Knives do however range in cost and construction type. We’ll follow up with some recommendations for the begging cook in another post but lets first talk about how the knives are made. There are 2 primary methods of construction – Stamped or Forged. Stamped are cut from a sheet of metal and sharpened. Stamped knives are general cheaper, flimsier, and will not stay sharp for as long. They are though not without merit. Certainly if you are on a budget or looking for a lighter weight tool stamped is the way to go. Just make sure you buy a good electric sharpener with the knife to keep that edge up. Forged knives are lifelong tools, they are heavier, sturdier and more effectively built. That also means they cost more and weigh more – both consideration for the user. My preference is for the later as over time that cost to purchase becomes pretty irrelevant, I’ve owned my forged Henkles chef’s knife for 20 years and it is still good as new after a sharpening.

The Knives You Need:

Let me be clear I like gear especially sharp stabby things like these, I enjoy the thought, construction, and the craftsmanship that goes into tools. You do not under any circumstance need the 20 odd knives I have, you do however need 3 or 4 staples. Those staples are as follows:

– A chef’s knife. This is the most important knife you’ll buy spend the most money on it, care for it carefully and as Anthony Bourdain advises “get the biggest one you can handle” for most people this means a 7, 8, or 9 inch chef’s knife. I’d also recommend going with a forged product here.
– A paring knife. These are short typically in the 3-4 inch ranch and you can get by with stamped or ceramic here, these are typically used for cleaning and cutting things like fruit and veg.
– A serrated knife. Used for slicing things like bread, and roasted meats, this tool is less often used but still a staple in the kitchen.
– A boning knife. It is for what the name implies cutting around bones, for this reason the knife is actually designed to flex – but cheeping out here isn’t a great idea, boning can be dangerous work and the slip of a cheap dull knife could be a cut of your finger.

Now that we have talked about the who/what/where/how of knives we will follow on with some

Becoming a Better Cook – The Knives You Need

Good sharp knives are the at foundation of good cooking and equipping your kitchen with them will help you become a better cook. Sharp consistent knives promote better knife skills, promote more even chopping and cutting meaning fewer small burned pieces or larger undercooked checks of ingredients. Now doubt all of us recall Cutco knives from high school or the late night stuff of infomercials pushed by the likes of Billy Mays – we are not here to talk about those types of knives. Real chefs knives are rarely sold by late night pitchmen or door-to-door salesmen.

About Knives:

Knives do however range in cost and construction type. We’ll follow up with some recommendations for the begging cook in another post but lets first talk about how the knives are made. There are 2 primary methods of construction – Stamped or Forged. Stamped are cut from a sheet of metal and sharpened. Stamped knives are general cheaper, flimsier, and will not stay sharp for as long. They are though not without merit. Certainly if you are on a budget or looking for a lighter weight tool stamped is the way to go. Just make sure you buy a good electric sharpener with the knife to keep that edge up. Forged knives are lifelong tools, they are heavier, sturdier and more effectively built. That also means they cost more and weigh more – both consideration for the user. My preference is for the later as over time that cost to purchase becomes pretty irrelevant, I’ve owned my forged Henkles chef’s knife for 20 years and it is still good as new after a sharpening.

The Knives You Need:

Let me be clear I like gear especially sharp stabby things like these, I enjoy the thought, construction, and the craftsmanship that goes into tools. You do not under any circumstance need the 20 odd knives I have, you do however need 3 or 4 staples. Those staples are as follows:

– A chef’s knife. This is the most important knife you’ll buy spend the most money on it, care for it carefully and as Anthony Bourdain advises “get the biggest one you can handle” for most people this means a 7, 8, or 9 inch chef’s knife. I’d also recommend going with a forged product here.
– A paring knife. These are short typically in the 3-4 inch ranch and you can get by with stamped or ceramic here, these are typically used for cleaning and cutting things like fruit and veg.
– A serrated knife. Used for slicing things like bread, and roasted meats, this tool is less often used but still a staple in the kitchen.
– A boning knife. It is for what the name implies cutting around bones, for this reason the knife is actually designed to flex – but cheeping out here isn’t a great idea, boning can be dangerous work and the slip of a cheap dull knife could be a cut of your finger.

Now that we have talked about the who/what/where/how of knives we will follow on with some

The Top 10 Baby Names for 2016

In a year that saw a lot of upheaval in a lot of places the list of Top 10 Baby Names for 2016 was not one of them. Once again Jackson for boys and Sophia for girls took home the top honors as the most popular baby names of 2016. The other top baby names were:

Top 10 Baby Names for Girls:
1.) Sophia
2.) Emma
3.) Olivia
4.) Ava
5.) Mia
6.) Isabelle
7.) Riley
8.) Aria (like the casino?)
9.) Zoe
10.) Charlotte

Top 10 Baby Names for Boys:
1.) Jackson
2.) Aiden
3.) Lucas
4.) Liam
5.) Noah
6.) Ethan
7.) Mason
8.) Caden
9.) Oliver
10.) Elijah

This list originally popped up on Babycenter.com and is from self reported data so it might not be the most comprehensive list out there – but if you want to wait for the official list it wont be here until roughly this time next year. So until there you have the Top 10 Baby Names for 2016.

The Top 10 Baby Names for 2016

In a year that saw a lot of upheaval in a lot of places the list of Top 10 Baby Names for 2016 was not one of them. Once again Jackson for boys and Sophia for girls took home the top honors as the most popular baby names of 2016. The other top baby names were:

Top 10 Baby Names for Girls:
1.) Sophia
2.) Emma
3.) Olivia
4.) Ava
5.) Mia
6.) Isabelle
7.) Riley
8.) Aria (like the casino?)
9.) Zoe
10.) Charlotte

Top 10 Baby Names for Boys:
1.) Jackson
2.) Aiden
3.) Lucas
4.) Liam
5.) Noah
6.) Ethan
7.) Mason
8.) Caden
9.) Oliver
10.) Elijah

This list originally popped up on Babycenter.com and is from self reported data so it might not be the most comprehensive list out there – but if you want to wait for the official list it wont be here until roughly this time next year. So until there you have the Top 10 Baby Names for 2016.

The most recent list of cancelled TV shows

Today we got the semi-regular list of major shows that have been renewed, end or cancelled on TV (and now on streaming services like Netflix!). The full list of both renewed and/or cancelled TV shows is running on MSN.com right now but here are some of the biggest names we’ll be losing to cancellation:

Duck Dynasty – After 11 seasons and a couple controversies the beards and bandanas are leaving the small screen.

Workaholics – After 7 seasons on Comedy Central this one is done.

Braindead & American Gothic – Each made it only 1 season on CBS before joining the ranks of cancelled TV shows.

Murder in the first – dead after three seasons on TNT.

Aquarius – Even David Duchovny could save their show from cancellation after 2 years on NBC.

Mistresses – is headed for divorce from ABC after 4 seasons.

Pretty Little Liars – Ending after its seventh season on the renamed “freeform” network.

Grimm – heading into syndication after 6 seasons on NBC.

I Am Cait – Canceled after two seasons and a bunch of hype on E!

So those are the big ones that are going away this season, which cancelled TV shows will you miss the most?

The most recent list of cancelled TV shows

Today we got the semi-regular list of major shows that have been renewed, end or cancelled on TV (and now on streaming services like Netflix!). The full list of both renewed and/or cancelled TV shows is running on MSN.com right now but here are some of the biggest names we’ll be losing to cancellation:

Duck Dynasty – After 11 seasons and a couple controversies the beards and bandanas are leaving the small screen.

Workaholics – After 7 seasons on Comedy Central this one is done.

Braindead & American Gothic – Each made it only 1 season on CBS before joining the ranks of cancelled TV shows.

Murder in the first – dead after three seasons on TNT.

Aquarius – Even David Duchovny could save their show from cancellation after 2 years on NBC.

Mistresses – is headed for divorce from ABC after 4 seasons.

Pretty Little Liars – Ending after its seventh season on the renamed “freeform” network.

Grimm – heading into syndication after 6 seasons on NBC.

I Am Cait – Canceled after two seasons and a bunch of hype on E!

So those are the big ones that are going away this season, which cancelled TV shows will you miss the most?

Can Two Ingredients Save Frozen Peas? Yes they can!

Most of us have at least one package of fairly uninteresting frozen peas in our freezer. Adding to that if your family is anything like mine they probably get used more often for bumps and bruises than they get served for dinner. You probably also have less than favorable childhood memories of frozen peas being slapped on everything as a side and pushed home with an “eat your peas” order from mom and dad.

We’ll today we are here to help save the frozen pea! This recipe is very easy to knock out and also works for fresh peas if you are lucky to have them around.

What you will need:
– Frozen Peas (1/3 cup per person).
– Bacon (1strip per 1/3rd cup frozen peas).
– Shallots (one medium size shallot per 1/3 cup of peas).
– Salt & Pepper.

What you’ll do:
– Cut the bacon in to roughly half inch wide pieces.
– Thin slice the shallots.
– Blanch the peas for 30 seconds in salted water, drain and set aside.
– Render the bacon in a pan until half done.
– Begin to fry shallots in the pan with the bacon.
– Once the bacon is the desired level of crispy toss in the peas for a minute.
– Salt & Pepper to taste.

Plate and serve your new hero peas immediately.

Six Simple and Inexpensive Home Fragrance DIY Ideas

Fragrance is such a key element to making your home an inviting and comfortable place to be. Scents can contribute so much to the ambience of a space and can really put you in a relaxed mood. That is why I love making my house smell great, but it can be pricey to purchase candles and air fresheners. I did some research on cool home fragrance diy ideas, so that I could keep my home smelling fantastic without spending a lot of cash. Here are my favorite ideas that I came across.

1. Pine Cone Display
Find or purchase some pine cones. Choose an essential oil scent that you enjoy such as peppermint or lavender. You can buy essential oils at many places such as TJ Maxx, Sprouts, or Target. Put a drop or two on each pine cone and then display them in a basket or bowl. Not only will you have the lovely scent in your home, but you will also have a pretty decoration to display.

2. Use Dryer Sheets
Many people love the scent of fresh laundry, and a lot of that scent comes from dryer sheets. You can get a couple dryer sheets and tape it to your home’s air conditioner filter. This will distribute the fresh linen scent throughout your home and will cost next to nothing!

3. Turn Lemons Into a Homemade Air Freshener Spray
Making your own air freshener spray can be as easy as combining 3 ingredients. Take 1/8 cup of baking soda and let it dissolve into 2 cups of hot water. Then add a 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and that’s it!

4. Make Your Own Drawer Sachets
I love the way drawer sachets make my clothes and unmentionables smell great! You can make your own by purchasing small little fabric bags at craft stores like Michaels or JoAnn’s. Then take your favorite essential oil and put a few drops on some cotton balls. Put the cotton balls in the bags and that is all you need to make your drawers smell wonderful!

5. Easy Garbage Disposal Freshener
I’ve always enjoyed the way it smells when I put lemons or oranges down the garbage disposal. That is why this next ideas is so genius. Get a cheap ice tray and fill each slot with chopped lemon peels. Then pour white distilled vinegar into the tray over the lemon peels. Put the tray in the freezer and as soon as the cubes freeze take it out and put the cubes into a freezer bag for storage. Whenever you need to freshen your garbage disposal simply drop one of those cubes down the drain and turn on the disposal. You’ll get a fresh lemon smell all throughout your kitchen!

6. Use Vanilla For an “I just baked” Scent
Many people love air fresheners that smell like freshly baked treats like cookies, cakes, and cinnamon rolls. I personally don’t because it just makes me hungry, but if that’s your thing there is a super easy way to achieve that scent. Take an oven safe glass or bowl and pour in two small caps (caps not cups) full of vanilla extract. Place it in your oven at 300 degrees for an hour and you will start to smell the divine scent of vanilla!

That rounds out our list of the top 6 home fragrance diy ideas that are both cheap and easy. Let us know which ones you decide to try out, and as always we’d love to hear your home fragrance diy ideas too.

A Guide to Estate Sale Shopping: 10 Helpful Tips

Many of my favorite items in my house were purchased at estate sales. I absolutely love estate sale shopping, because you can find amazing, high quality items at very affordable prices. Estate sales are basically garage sales on steroids. Instead of exploring items on somebody’s yard or driveway, you have access to their entire house. You’ll be able to shop treasures of all kinds such as furniture, kitchenware, home decor items, clothing, toys, books, and much more. The prices are typically above yard sales prices, yet still extremely cheap and reasonable. Over the years I have been to many estate sales and have learned a lot of strategies and tips to make the most of your experience. Here are my top suggestions for estate sale shopping.

1. Go Early!
The old expression, “the early bird gets the worm” is so true in the world of estate sales. Usually an estate sale will start at 8 am, but they can start as early as 7. You want to be there when the sale opens, because you will be competing with all the shoppers for the best finds. Let me tell you from experience that the best items tend to sell early in the morning.

2. Wait For the Sale
Generally the last day of the sale will be a 50% off day where all the items will be marked down. This is the day to go find treasures! Sometimes, if you are especially lucky the estate sale owner will be looking to make deals with customers to clear out the inventory. In this case you can get deals for bundling and purchasing several items. On 50% off days, don’t be afraid to ask for special deals or additional discounts.

3. Scope Out the Sales on Estate Sale Sites
In my opinion the best website to find out about estate sales is hands down EstateSales.net. Simply enter your zip code and the site will give you a listing of all the sales in your area. Make a plan the night before to determine which sales you want to visit. EstateSales.net also shows you teaser pictures of items available at the sale, so you can determine if the sale has items you’d want. Get an idea of what items you like even before you go to the sale.

4. Thoroughly Inspect Your Items Before Your Buy
This is a good rule of thumb anytime you are buying something secondhand. Make sure that you really look through the items, because you won’t have any opportunity to return your purchases. If you are purchasing clothing, try to look at the items in natural light. I learned the hard way that sometimes you can’t see certain stains or holes until you look over the garment in bright light. If the garment has zippers make sure the zippers work too.

5. Bring Cash Just in Case
While many estate sales do allow credit and debit cards, many do not. Make sure you have plenty of cash just in case.

6. Bring Bags or Boxes
Many times estate sales don’t have bags or boxes for customers to help them carry their purchases. Plan ahead and put some bags or a box in your car to help you transport your treasures home.

7. Auctions
Sometimes an estate sale has tons of items and they just can’t sell through it all in a couple days. Many times, when the estate sale company thinks this will happen, they will plan an auction for the end of the sale. The auction will typically occur in the afternoon on the last day of the sale. It is not typically advertised to the public. I can’t even express what amazing bargains can be found at these auctions. They can be worth your time and effort. If you are interested ask the estate sale clerks if they plan to have an auction at the end of the sale. If you express interest they will likely extend you an invite.

8. Get on The List
Just like you want to be on a VIP list, you also want to be on an estate sale company’s email list. Many estate sale companies have email lists of customers that want to be informed about special sales and promotions. If you go to an estate sale that you really enjoy, ask if they have a list so that you can be in the loop when new sales occur.

9. Search in a Variety of Locations Around Your City
A lot of people think that to get the best stuff you should only attend sales in more affluent and wealthier parts of the city. This is simply not true. I think it is important to explore all around your city when estate sale shopping. If you are searching for antiques, it is sometimes good to attend sales in areas of town that are historic or are known for being more eclectic neighborhoods. Also, areas or suburbs that have a lot of seniors can also be great for finding antiques.

10. Don’t Buy Something Just Because it is Cheap
When people first go to estate sales they often get very excited by the prices. While deals are exciting, make sure that you aren’t buying something just because it is cheap. Make sure the item is actually useful and that you have a plan for it when you get it home. Would you be interested in that item even if it were more expensive? If the answer is yes then that should make you more confident that the item is truly a good buy.

That concludes my top ten estate sale shopping tips. I hope you will give estate sale shopping a try. It is truly an amazing way to score beautiful items for your home while on a budget. I get so many compliments on items I picked up from the sales. I love that my home features one of a kind items that really make it my own space unlike anyone else’s. Exploring my creativity is really the most rewarding part of estate sale shopping. Let us know what treasures you find at your first sale!

10 Step Home Dishwasher Tune Up

The dishwasher – the workhorses of our kitchens, more than any other appliances they are relied on to save us time and in my case keep me sane (I hate doing dishes by hand). To many of us though they are an afterthought – something we always expect to work perfectly time and time again. Unfortunately that constant use over time leads to wear and tear, build-ups, and in turn degraded performance. Dishes that once came out consistently clean, glasses sparkling, flatware spotless; over time give way to films, water spots, and clouding. Replacing a dishwasher is expensive and onerous, so what can you do?

Well before anything drastic try a home tune up! Or more correctly a clean up.

Follow these steps:
1.) Check & clean the food traps, these clog up with food that results in your dishwasher draining poorly and are a common cause of foul odors.
2.) If you have a light or rinse cycle run it through this cycle with nothing in the dishwasher including detergent.
3.) Now that food is removed and the dishwasher has been rinsed inside let it air out and dry for several hours (potentially over night if you live somewhere humid).
4.) Once you are rinsed and thoroughly dried its is time to descale and clean the insides (what sounds like a grimy job is actually quite simple).
5.) Fill two plastic cups or measuring cups half way with White Vinegar, place one each in the top and bottom racks.
6.) Fill the detergent drawer with vinegar as well.
7.) Now run the hot water tap in your sink until good consistent hot water flows through it, this will ensure what comes enters the dishwasher is also hot from the start
8.) Set the dishwasher to the longest hottest cycle you have – and run it.
9.) Once the cycle is complete send it through again on the lightest cycle and open it up to air out.
10.) You are done!

A Super Simple Snickerdoodle Recipe Your Family Will Love

Snickerdoodles are the tastiest cookies ever in my opinion! I appreciate their simplicity, and I love the great cinnamon flavor. They are best when they are crispy around the edges but soft inside. I had been searching for an easy snickerdoodle recipe that would be soft and fluffy in texture, and I came across this one. This is now my go to recipe for snickerdoodles. I originally found it on Food.com. The contributor of the recipe credited it to Betty Crocker. Let’s face it, you can’t go wrong with a Betty Crocker recipe, so I decided to give it a shot. I am so glad I did, because they are were so easy to make and absolutely delicious!

1 (18 1/4 ounce) white cake mix, any brand will do.

1/2 cup of melted butter

1 egg

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Since my baking sheet is not non-stick, I do the extra step of covering it in foil and spraying it with a non-stick cooking spray.

2. Mix the cake mix, melted butter, and egg in a bowl until it forms into dough.

3. Shape the dough into small 1 inches balls.

4. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Roll around each ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture and then place it on your tray. Place the cookies about 2 inches apart.

5. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cookies set. I cooked mine for closer to 12 minutes, but it varies by oven. Mine came out slightly crispy around the edges while soft and moist in the center.

6. Remove the cookies from the tray and let them cool on a wire rack or plate.

I have made these several times now and they have always been a big hit with family and friends. Not only are they tasty, but they are also the simplest cookies you will ever make! Do you have a better snickerdoodle recipe that is even more simplistic? Let us know.

10 Health Benefits of Peppermint Tea and Peppermint Oil

I love to drink teas, especially peppermint tea. I was delighted to learn that peppermint has tons of health benefits that I wasn’t even aware of. While I like to enjoy it in tea, there are multiple ways to use it and incorporate it into your health routines. Here are my top 10 favorite health benefits from peppermint.

1. It Soothes the Stomach
I usually enjoy peppermint tea with my breakfast. I’ve noticed that it always seems to have a very soothing effect on my stomach. In my research, I learned that peppermint tea is actually known to help with digestion. It can even help with disorders like irritable bowel syndrome. It has natural pain relieving benefits that can aid with cramping, and it also helps reduce bloating and gas.

2. It Can Help You Lose Weight
While Peppermint is not a miracle weight loss aid, it can help with appetite control. Smelling peppermint can help to reduce your appetite, thus causing you to eat less and get full faster.

3. It Can Stimulate the Mind and Sharpen Your Thinking
Peppermint is a natural mental stimulant that can help you concentrate and focus better. It can also give you more energy when you are feeling sluggish or are experiencing jet lag.

4. It Can Improve Your Mood
According to scientific studies, the smell of peppermint is a mood enhancer. It can aid with feelings of sadness, anxiety, and irritability.

5. It Improves Your Breath
Peppermint has antibacterial properties that can help kill the germs that cause bad breath. In addition, its pleasant smell can help override odors. That is why peppermint makes an excellent flavor for gum. It is also part of why restaurants provide peppermint candies after meals.

6. It Can Help Reduce Coughing and Vomiting When You Are Sick
When consumed in tea, peppermint can help reduce coughing and vomiting. Peppermint has antispasmodic properties that allow it to be soothing when you are nauseous or it can help curb that tingling itchy feeling in your throat when you have a cough.

7. It Can Aid With Muscle Aches and Pains
When applied to the skin, peppermint essential oils have a very soothing, refreshing, and tingling sensation similar to over the counter muscle ache creams like Icy Hot. This makes it a wonderful natural alternative to use when you are feeling sore and achy. Plus it’s natural analgesic and antispasmodic properties I mentioned before make it particularly useful with muscle pain.

8. It Can Sooth Itchy Skin
Peppermint feels cooling and calming on the skin which can help reduce feelings of itchiness when you get a bug bite or encounter poison ivy.

9. It Acts as a Natural Bug Repellant
Avoid getting bug bites in the first place by applying peppermint to the skin. Bugs are repelled by peppermint oil and will steer clear of you.

10. It Can Help Break a Fever
Since peppermint is naturally very cooling, it can be useful to assist in breaking a mild fever. Apply it to skin behind the neck and on the bottom of the feet. This technique is similar to applying ice packs on the skin when you have a fever.

As you can see, peppermint has tons of applications and potential health benefits. Now that I know that, I will be even more dedicated to drinking my morning peppermint tea with my breakfast. In addition, I plan to start stocking peppermint in the form of an essential oil in my medicine cabinet. You can find essential oils at places like Walmart, Target, health food stores, and even at your local farmers markets.

10 Ideas to Cheer Yourself Up When You’re Having a Bad Day

We all try to avoid bad days as much as possible, but sometimes they just can’t be avoided. Maybe you got some bad news, got into a fight with a friend, or had a bad day at work. Even if you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed and are feeling like Debbie Downer, there are small things you can do to improve your mood. Here are our 10 ideas to cheer yourself up when you’re having a bad day.

1. Practice Gratitude
I know this is probably the last thing you want to hear when you are having a bad day. You are probably thinking that there is nothing to be grateful for on a bad day. However, even on a lousy day there is something to be grateful for. When you focus on the positive in your life you will gain a new perspective on your situation. Then you’ll see that although you’re having an unpleasant day, not everything in life is negative.

2. Do Something That You Enjoy
Sometimes the best remedy for a bad mood is to do something positive that you enjoy. Pick something that will help take your mind off things and refocus your energy like taking a bubble bath, watching your favorite movie, going to dinner with friends, etc.

3. Be in the Moment
Try to focus on the present moment by bringing your attention to your breath. Focus just on breathing in and breathing out. When you do this, you clear away the negative thinking in your mind and bring your focus solely to the moment. This is essentially practicing the art of meditation and mindfulness which have been scientifically proven to reduce stress. Those who make it a point to practice meditation and mindfulness report that they feel mentally sharp, more creative, and more capable to take on the stress of the day while being able to remain calm.

4. Bring a Sense of Acceptance to the Situation
When you make a mistake or somebody does something to upset you, the mind often replays that situation over and over again making you fixate on it. These thoughts get you riled up and lead to negative emotions. If this sounds like you, try to bring acceptance to the situation. Acknowledge that things happened the way they did, and try to stop replaying different scenarios or outcomes in your mind. Avoid the shoulda, coulda, woulda thoughts. You’ll find that once you bring acceptance to any situation it is much easier to move past it. By the way, this is not the same thing as condoning the situation or saying it was positive. You simply accept that it happened the way it did, and that you can’t go back in time and change it. Focus on the present and what you can do now, since the past is gone.

5. Do Something Nice For Somebody Else
This is a great way to put yourself in a good mood and at the same time earn some good karma! It can be as simple as giving some strangers compliments to brighten their day, or you could do a kind and thoughtful gesture for somebody that will make them feel special.

6. Read Positive Quotes and Affirmations
There are tons of uplifting quotes online that you can read when you need a pick me up. Try logging onto Pinterest and searching for positive affirmations. After reading some of those you can’t help but feel stronger and inspired.

7. Exercise
Working out is a great way to release negative energy from the day and have some time for yourself. Go for a run or walk to clear your mind. If you can, try to do your workout in the outdoors. Many people say being in nature makes them feel more relaxed.

8. Hang Out With Your Pet
Our pets are always happy to see us and are wonderful sources of unconditional love. Animals tend to have a relaxing and peaceful effect on us humans. Plus they are just fun to be around!

9. Talk to a Confidant
Many people find venting and talking through their feelings with somebody else makes them feel better about a situation. Get support and encouragement from somebody you trust that is good at lifting you up when you are feeling bad. Allow this person to give you another perspective and help you see your situation in a new light.

10. Give Yourself Permission to have a Pity Party
Lastly, If you are still feeling a lot of emotion go ahead and allow yourself to feel it. Find sometime to be alone and go ahead and be upset for a little bit, cry, shout, and do what you gotta do. After, you’ll find the emotion will pass and you will start to feel better. Plus bottling up your emotions is not healthy.

Hopefully these suggestions will help turn your bad day around. However, just in case those tips didn’t work, I included some pictures of cute cats in this article just for you! Those are absolutely positively guaranteed to improve your mood. Do you have positive tips and advice that I missed? Feel free to let us know your thoughts.

Gym Motivation tips – Our top 5 favorites

What is your Gym motivation? How do you do it?

Going to the Gym is hard, staying motivated at the Gym is even harder. There I said it, I know many of us profess to love it and find it easy, but at least half the people on any given day find it difficult to get up go through the day and get to the gym. Finding ways to stay motivated and to continue to progress are key to keeping that gym motivation up and achieving the results you want. Here are some gym motivation tips that work for me:


Free Pass

1.) Get a fitness tracker and enable it on your phone. For me knowing what I did if I had a productive day or exactly how much exercise I got is motivating, playing little games with my self to get better numbers is fun and much easier to track with new technology.

2.) Join a good gym, one that is close to you, easy to park at, has a wide variety of classes and equipment. Boredom and difficulty of use are two of the biggest barriers you should remove before you start.

3.) Get a Gym buddy – accountability and friendship are 2 great ways to help stay motivated at the gym. Finding someone to go with you is probably the best way to do this.

4.) Gear! – If you are like me and like new toys/tech/gear reward yourself as you hit milestones at the gym.

5.) Set realistic time based milestones for yourself at the gym. “Lose 10lbs By X date” is a terrible goal and will frustrate you if you only get to 9lbs, instead try “Go to Gym 10 of next 14 days.”

So there you have it some Life Home Living gym motivation tips, we know it can be hard so we’d also love to hear from you about what works to stay motivated at the gym. Tweet us those @LifeHomeLiving

Natural Sleep Remedies and Tips For a Restful Night

In today’s hectic world so many people struggle with sleep. It can be so hard to turn off the mind and relax after a busy day. Even when you are able to fall asleep it can be difficult to stay asleep. Fortunately there are a lot of techniques that you can try to improve your sleep without needing to rely on medicines from the doctor. Here are our favorite natural sleep remedies.

Melatonin Supplements
This is probably one of the most popular natural sleep remedies out there, because it is a sleep inducing hormone that your brain produces naturally. Melatonin supplements usually come in the form of a dissolving tablet that you take about 20 minutes before you are ready to fall asleep. It can easily be found in the vitamin and supplement aisle of your local drug store or grocery store. It doesn’t need to be taken every night. You can simply use it on nights that you are having difficulty falling asleep.

Meditation
One of the biggest reasons people have trouble sleeping is that their minds are going a mile a minute. They are thinking about the stresses of the day or things they have to do the next day. If anxiety is keeping you up at night, try practicing meditation. It is an excellent strategy for training the mind to stay relaxed and present. Those that practice meditation are less likely to feel bogged down by stress and worry.

Exercise
Like meditation, exercise can be a great way to reduce your stress levels. This will in turn have a positive impact on your sleep. Plus the more energy that you expend through out the day, the more likely you are to be tired at night. Be careful to not workout too late in the evening, as that could actually cause you to feel more alert.

Make Sure Your Room is Dark Enough
This may sound like a no brainer, but in today’s high tech world a lot of people underestimate how much our devices may be keeping us awake. If you are a late night TV watcher try turning off the tv well before you are go to sleep. Put your cell phone away. Turn away the lights that shine from your alarm clark. All the lights from these various devices can keep your mind from getting the signal that it is time to go to sleep.

Stop Consuming Liquids a Few Hours Before Bed
If you are waking up at night to go to the bathroom, try cutting yourself off from drinking liquids a few hours before bed. Especially avoid drinking caffeine in the evening or late afternoon. These techniques will usually cut down on nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Keep Your Room Cool
Body temperature can play a key role in falling asleep. You get better sleep when your body temperature is cool. Try investing in a fan or setting your air conditioner a little lower. Make sure you have breathable pajamas and blankets.

Make Your Bedroom a Relaxing Sanctuary
This may sound cheesy, but you want your bedroom to be a place that you find relaxing. If you bedroom is super messy and cluttered it may actually have the opposite effect. Try to keep it clean. Have a pleasant, calming smell in the room like lavender or other spa-like scents. Make sure you have comfortable pillows and blankets. Try not to have items in there that represent your work life like a computer or a desk.

Try Drinking a Glass of Warm Milk
This is probably one of the most classic natural sleep remedies. Your mother probably told it to you when you were a kid. The calcium in the milk helps your body produce melatonin.

If you are having trouble getting to sleep, sometimes it is best to just get up and do something else for a little while. Try reading a book or taking a relaxing bath. Then go back to bed and try to fall asleep again. Most importantly do your best to not worry about your lack of sleep or your trouble sleeping. Worrying about something never helps. Try calming the mind by focusing on something positive that puts your mind at ease. Avoid thinking about the next day and your impending to-do list. Let us know if you decide to try these natural sleep remedies.

Cast Iron Skillet Care: How to Re-Season a Cast Iron

Cast iron skillet care is an important part of getting the most out of your pans.

As we continue to explore options to the traditional non-stick pan we have discussed two common self-seasoning pans that require a different care from non-stick but will give you decades of use: Carbon Steel Pans & Cast Iron Skillets. Over time these pans develop non-stick properties via the seasoning process, the chemistry of which is covered in great detail in this blog from Sheryl Canter. Through continued use a cast iron forms a coating through fat polymerization, its that coating or seasoning we are looking at today. You will find no end of opinions on: who, what, when, where, and why the correct way to season a cast iron skillet. Or for that matter all of the finer point of cast iron skillet care, but from my experience I agree with Sheryl. Flax-seed oil is your best bet for seasoning a cast iron skillet.

As part of normal cast iron skillet care you will from time to time need to re-season it, this allows you to start with a fresh base. This is what I have found to be the most effective process (this is assuming you are starting with a stripped or new cast iron skillet).

Start by warming the pan a low oven to around 180-200 degrees. Place the pan in the oven for 20 minutes to warm it through. This causes expansion and opens up the pores of the metal. From there remove the skillet from the oven wipe out any moisture or remaining residues. With the pan out of the oven raise the temperature to 500+/- degrees while you finish wiping out the pan and begin to grease it. For the greasing process take a tablespoon of flax-seed oil, using a paper towel and your fingers while the pan cools work oil into every nook and cranny in the pan. Wipe out an excess flax-seed oil. Place the cast iron skillet back into the pre-heated oven and let it bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Turn the oven off and let it cool with the skillet inside for a couple hours until you can handle it without burning yourself. If you are starting with a brand new unseasoned pan, or reviving a severely rusted cast iron skillet, it may come out with a matte finish to it, if so repeat the steps above as needed until you get a nice semi-gloss finish.

How to Prevent and Heal Chapped Lips For Good

Chapped lips are one of those small health and beauty nuisances that we all want to avoid. Not only can they be unsightly, but they can also be painful and uncomfortable. Fortunately there are easy ways to prevent and heal chapped lips. Here are my favorites tips to transform your chapped lips.

1. Drink Lots of Water
Dry lips can be a sign that your body is dry and dehydrated in general. Make sure that you are getting enough water each day to stay plenty hydrated from the inside out.

2. Consider if You are Using Irritating, Drying Products
Have you started using a new soap, toothpaste, lipstick, etc that may coincide with the onset of your chapped lips? Sometimes cosmetics and toiletries can be the culprit especially toothpastes and lip products since they come into close contact with your lips every day. However anything you put on your face, even if not placed directly on the lips, could potentially cause an issue. I once had irritation from a new sunblock that I was using. I discovered that it was drying out my lips even though I wasn’t applying it to them directly. If you started using something new maybe give it a rest for a couple days to see if that makes a difference.

3. Try Vaseline
A lot of popular lip balms that claim to help hydrate your lips actually end up drying them out more, leaving you increasingly dependent on moisturizers. Avoid this cycle by using something simple and plain like petroleum jelly. Vaseline now makes small pocket size containers that you can carry around with you to use throughout the day. I typically apply it just once in the morning and once at night.

4. Protect Yourself from the Elements
If you know you are going to be out in the sun or in cold winds try wearing protective garments like hats and scarfs that will help minimize your face’s exposure to the elements.

5. When You Get Flakes, Exfoliate
You may have used an exfoliator or a scrub for your skin before, so you may not be surprised to learn that there are exfoliators and scrubs made just for your lips. You can purchase a lip exfoliator or you can simply put some warm water on a washcloth and wipe your lips firmly but gently to wipe away the dead skin. You could also make you own scrubs and exfoliators at home with things you likely already have laying around like brown sugar and coconut oil. Here is a recipe in case you are interested in giving that a shot.

6. Take Your Vitamins
A vitamin deficiency could be the source of your problem, so make sure that you get your daily dose.

7. Put Some Oil On Them
I love a good natural remedy using things you already have in the kitchen. Try dabbing on some oils such as coconut oil, jojoba oil, or even olive oil. Try this a few times a day for a couple days until your lips heal.

All in all, the best thing you can do is avoid irritants or allergens and stay hydrated both inside and out. Try to stick to natural products as much as possible, since a lot of beauty products for the lips can do more harm than good. There are some exceptions out there, but if you are truly prone to chapped lips you may want to go easy on lipsticks and trendy lip balms. Also, avoiding licking your lips. That habit can also lead to excessive dryness. If you do these things your chapped lips will become a thing of the past!

Carbon Steel Pans – The non-stick alternative

Carbon steel pans have been widely used in restaurants for years, but only really came to light for many home cooks with a feature in Cooks Illustrated last year. With out getting into the politics of Teflon we’ll say that there has been a significant rise in people looking for alternatives to the trusty non-stick pan we all have. One driver of this is that the non-stick coating decomposes over time eventually flaking off into the food you cook. This presents two issues – one its gross to find flakes of Teflon in your food, and two you now need to buy a new pan. Constantly buying new pans is frustrating and becomes expensive over time. Due to this people have been searching for alternatives to non-stick at higher and high rates, the most common of those has been cast iron, but that has its limitations.

Enter Carbon Steel Pans

These pans have a number of advantages over traditional non-stick those combined with their durability are a main driver of their commercial use. What are those advantages? Glad you asked. Carbon steel pans get much hotter than a non-stick pan which means it is a better choice for searing, it also means more font in the pan for better sauces. These pans are also much safer than non-stick which begins to actively decompose at 500 degrees. This temperature limit for Teflon also means that tossing the pan in the oven to cook a piece of meat all the way through can be a no go. Finally durability – in my kitchen a non-stick works great for about 6 months and is worn out in a year, a carbon steel skillet like a cast iron will last decades.

Carbon Steel Drawbacks

These pans do have two potential downsides, the immediately noticeable one is weight. An 11 inch carbon steel pan can weigh two to three times that of a non-stick pan, this is something to consider especially if you have a volume of liquid in the pan. The second drawback is care – like cast iron these pans achieve their non-stick properties via the “seasoning” process, that means they require a little more care to preserve than the simple wiping out of a non-stick. Once done cleaning the pan dry the pan right away and then rub the inside with a little vegetable oil.

P.S. – if you are curious about non-stick safety check out this informative piece from the fine folks at Good House Keeping

Becoming a better cook – Digital Apps for beginners

As a novice cook, looking to become a better cook, I often find myself relying on recipes a lot of the same recipes. So learning new techniques and being exposed to new recipes and growing as a cook becomes difficult. Sprinkling in new ingredients, technics, and dishes is key to growth as a cook. That is why I love cooking apps, they can get you out of a rut and thinking of new meals to cook. It happens to us all, we fall into the trap of making the same meals week after week. However, after discovering cooking apps I’ve been inspired to expand my horizons. Here are some awesome cooking apps that I think will help inspire you to break out of your cooking rut as well.

Recipe Book
If you are looking for a tool that suggests recipes based on what you have on hand in your fridge or cupboards, Recipe Book is great. Select a couple ingredients you have around and shake your phone. The app will show you recipes based on those ingredients. If you looking for more exotic options from around the world Recipe Book has you covered with meals from around the globe.

Sidechef
If you are a cooking newbie this app is the total package. Not only does it provide recipes but it also provides guided audio directions and videos. Plus the video and audio instructions have built in timers to give you enough time to complete steps before the next one. That way you don’t have to touch your phone mid chop or mix. If you have food allergies or are sticking to an elimination diet, this app can help by allowing you to search for recipes by those restrictions.

Yummly
This App aggregates all the best recipes from the top recipe sites and food blogs around the web, its basically a newsreader app for recipes. It also have functionality save your favorites to your recipe box and easily incorporate all the ingredients into your grocery shopping/ instacart list. This is a great way to experience new recipes and learn techniques you might not otherwise be exposed to which is one of the best ways to become a better cook.

The Betty Crocker Cookbook
With more than 15,000 recipes in this app long time trusted name in cooking Betty Crocker really delivers here, functionality such as save and share is great for learning from and with others. When cooking with the app you can set it to cook mode which locks the screen, so that it doesn’t keep going dark while you are working. You can also keep track of ingredients you have already added by pressing on each ingredient in the list to check it off. The app also gives you substitution ideas if you are avoiding certain ingredients.

EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry
When you are looking to eat healthy this is a great app. Sometimes it seems quicker and easier to grab some fast food, but the meals in this app are specifically designed to be both quick and easy. Many of the recipes only take less than15 minutes to make. Another nice bonus is that the app gives you the full nutrition facts for each meal.

So there you have a quick LifeHomeLiving guide to app that will help you become a better cook – if there are any others you think we should review as always drop us a line here on our Facebook page.

A Quick Guide to Selecting a Healthy Chewing Gum

I love gum! I always make it a point to have it on hand with me. I am definitely one of those people that enjoys chewing a stick of gum after my meals. It is a great palette cleanser, and it keeps me from eating second helpings. However at my last dental check up I ended up having a cavity. I decided to ask my hygienist if my gum habit could be to blame. She informed me that gum can have lot of positive benefits for the health of your mouth. The key is to choose a healthy chewing gum. How do you know if you are purchasing a healthy chewing gum? Well, that is what I will be breaking down for you in this article.

You may be surprised to know that although we think of chewing gum as pretty harmless, there are a couple things about it that are important to consider. The first is that gum can contain sugar or potentially harmful artificial sweeteners. Since most people are aware that sugar filled gums can lead to cavities and tooth decay, most of the gum out there is now sugar free. However choosing sugar free gum isn’t always enough. Sugar free gums contain chemical based artificial sweeteners. Many of these sweeteners are the topic of much debate in the health community. While some argue that they are perfectly safe, there are others that assert that they have potentially dangerous effects on our health. Some independent studies have linked chemical sweeteners like Aspartame to a variety of cancers. While it is still uncertain if this is true, I choose not to risk it. My dental hygienist recommended that I switch to gums that are sweetened with a sugar alcohol called Xylitol. Sugar alcohols are found naturally in some foods. They can also be derived by food manufacturers from sugar. Xylitol is one of the most widely used sugar alcohols. It is popular because it has far less calories than sugar. It is also low on the glycemic index, so it won’t cause a large spike in your blood sugar. It is widely considered to be safe by the health community as well. In fact it has a positive impact on your dental health by helping to kill the bad bacterias that form in your mouth. It is a common ingredient in toothpaste.

The second interesting thing to note about gum is that its base is usually made from plastics and rubbers. This is a fact that very much surprised me and made me think twice about the gum I was buying. Back in the day, gums were usually made from something called chicle, which is from tree sap. Now it is made from synthetics. Since gum bases are made of a variety of these man made materials with the health implications being unknown, it is best to stick to gums that still use a natural chicle base.

Upon my research I found that there are gums that use both Xylitol and a chicle base. Perhaps the most common one is from a brand called Glee Gum. They do sell flavors with sugar as well as ones that are sugar free with just Xylitol for sweetening. Let us know if there are any healthy chewing gum brands that you love!